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Cold Remedies — Because Moms Can’t Take a Sick Day!



I have a beef with my immune system. While the rest of my family will get sniffles and be back up and at ’em within a day, when I get a cold it rocks my world. You can never get the same cold twice, but I certainly get the same symptoms like clockwork. It starts with a tickle in my sinuses. Then I’ll get a sore throat for a couple of days. That’ll move on and I’ll think I’m in the clear. And that’s when the coughing begins. Then my sinuses go haywire. Then I lose my voice for about four days.

I’m familiar with the scenario because I’m on day 7 currently of my latest round of cold. When you’re taking care of sniffling kids, it’s hard to actually avoid getting sick yourself. You can be doing everything right with the hand-washing and the tissue-tossing — but it’s all over when someone coughs directly in your face. And then I swear I actually get more than one cold at a time; is that possible? Because what are the odds that all three kids from three different classrooms and schools have the exact same virus? Inconceivable!

I was actually impressed we made it to November without really getting hit, so things could be worse. As I’m still breastfeeding, I’m always pretty cautious as to what cold remedies I take — meaning I suffer through my colds most of the time with little relief.

Although it feels like I get sick a lot since having kids, I’m still fairly typical. Adults get two to four colds every year —children get even more — and they last about 9 days. Over-the-counter products can definitely help, so Lenox Hill Hospital internist Keri Peterson, MD, a leading NYC-based physician, has a great roadmap for navigating the OTC aisles of your neighborhood drugstore.

Cold Remedies That Can Help

C to Z! At the first signs of a cold, stock up on vitamin C. If you are starting to get sick, zinc is your friend. The zinc ions in certain over-the-counter products like Cold-EEZE stop the cold virus from replicating, shortening your cold, Peterson says.

Spray it. For congestion/runny nose, most people use decongestant pills that have pseudoephedrine as an active ingredient, but these pills can have significant side effects like increased blood pressure, jitteriness and insomnia. Saline spray, however, has no side effects. At the onset of a cold, use saline spray and look for one with purified water and sodium chloride. This is the purest version with no additives. It will dry you out, flush out germs and mucous, and kill germs.

Soothe it. For a sore throat, try ibuprofen, which reduces the inflammation in the back of the throat that’s causing pain. Lozenges or drops with menthol or benzocaine are great numbing agents. Salt water gargles are helpful, even if they don’t taste great.

Stop the cough. There are two different types of coughs, so there are two different “best” over-the-counter cold remedies. It’s important to figure out which type you have. For a dry hacking cough, use a suppressant to stop the cough reflex. Look for one that says DM, which stands for Dextromethorphan. For a wet cough, use an expectorant like Guaifenesin. It thins mucous to relieve coughing and to clear airways.

Hydrate. Be sure to drink a glass of water with the expectorant to make it more effective. Water helps loosen congestion and lubricate the throat.

Thanks to Dr. Peterson for the tips. My biggest piece of advice is to REST REST REST. There is nothing more challenging than taking care of kids when you’re sick — they have no idea and their needs don’t stop. So grab naps when you can, hit the hay early, and if you have a cough that’s keeping you up all night, take your cough medicine. I’ve been able to use Robitussin for my cough and it made all the difference in getting a good night of sleep (which is already tough enough with three kids).

What are your tried-and-true cold remedies? I do swear by the saline spray, too. Always helps. —Erin

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